Water savers collect rain for summer use
by Debbie Bulger
it is pouring outside during a winter storm, have you ever wondered
if you could somehow save that water to use on your garden during
the long, dry summer? Or perhaps keep the water on your property
to nourish the soil and prevent it from running into the gutter
and collecting oil and tire dust and depositing them in the Monterey
Sierra Club member Silvia Sweet started harvesting winter's bountiful
crop of rain about eight years ago during Monterey Peninsula water
rationing. Her modest 550-gallon cistern sits next to her driveway
in the front yard of her Carmel Valley home. It's a simple system;
the water flows off the roof into the cistern. Sweet fills her watering
can from a spigot on the bottom of the cistern and gives her container
plants a drink. She purchased her cistern from a local nursery.
their house high up on the hillside above Carmel Valley, Tom and
Rhonda Augustitus use a water collection system that Tom built himself.
The water is collected off the roof in a 500-gallon tank and then
transferred to a 6000-gallon above-ground swimming pool purchased
to be used as a storage vessel. The swimming pool was an inexpensive
solution that appealed to Tom's do-it-yourself personality. His
motivation was to maintain his vegetable garden during the same
water restrictions that prompted Silvia Sweet to purchase her cistern.
Since the Augustitus storage pool is below the level of the house,
Tom uses a 3/4 hp pump to bring the water up to thirsty plants.
Mark and Kristin Sullivan of Capitola didn't wait for water restrictions.
When they built their new straw bale house (see The Ventana, Vol.
42, No 1, 2003) they installed a 2500-gallon cistern in their backyard.
The large green tank will soon be screened by the native bushes
the Sullivans have planted around it. Their drought-tolerant landscaping
is fed all summer from the winter harvest. The pressurized cistern
is gravity-fed from the Sullivans' roof and in turn supplies drip
irrigation and a few sprinklers in the yard.
An alternative to installing a cistern is to build French drains
which capture water from downspouts directing it into dry wells
filled with crushed rock replenishing the water table. French drains
can be concealed with filter cloth and topsoil which can be planted
with flowers or other greenery. The connections with the downspouts
are buried making the drains virtually invisible.
Many people install French drains to control runoff or standing
water which can cause building damage or erosion. But an additional
environmental benefit is that the water is diverted from running
into the street and instead is redirected into the ground where
it recharges the water table.
Club member Charles Koester of Boulder Creek installed French drains
in an L-shape around part of his garage to keep the building from
sitting in water after a rain. At Koester's house, the water drips
off the garage eaves and into the French drains below on his gently
When Richard Stover and Debbie Bulger were remodeling their house
in 1995, they built French drains as an alternative to directing
the water into the street (and ultimately into the Bay)-the other
choice presented by the City of Santa Cruz Planning Department.
"We didn't want to send more pollutants into the Marine Sanctuary,"
Water storage cisterns are available in a great range of sizes from
55 gallons to 5000 gallons and up. They cost from approximately
$150 for a 55-gallon drum to about $850 for a 2500-gallon size.
Cisterns can be purchased at water supply/sprinkler companies or
ordered through some nurseries or gardeners. Installation costs
are additional and would depend on your set-up.
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